The UUP and the NI protocol
Sir, – The reasonable tone and arguments of the newly elected leader of the UUP show the modern and progressive face of unionism (“Doug Beattie: I want to promote a progressive and inclusive unionism with a welcoming approach”, Opinion & Analysis, May 31st). There is much that can be readily agreed by nationalists.
But I take issue with him when he states that by allowing the imposition of an Irish Sea border the UK government “upset the fine balance of the Belfast Agreement.”
This fine balance was primarily upset by the 2016 referendum causing the UK to leave the EU. Though Northern Ireland as a whole voted against the referendum, many of Mr Beattie’s unionists voted for it. No consideration was given then to the problems this would cause in Northern Ireland, where identities have natural homes in different allegiances. To make matters worse, the hardest possible break with the EU was finally implemented.
Agitation and uncertainty have been the inevitable result.
The EU has consistently tried to minimise the negative consequences for Northern Ireland, but must also protect its single market.
Mr Beattie also credits the UK government with its very successful vaccination campaign but omits to mention its disastrous initial reaction to Covid, resulting in huge numbers of deaths, far higher than those of some countries in the EU. – Yours, etc,
Dublin 4 .
Sir, – There is much to admire in Doug Beattie’s opinion piece, not least his rejection of violence.
I must, however, take issue with his assertion that the UK government was “spooked” into accepting the Northern Ireland protocol by threats of violence and the EU “playing hardball”.
It reminded me somewhat of Edwin Poots’s entirely laughable assertion that the protocol was engineered by the Fine Gael party.
There is no reference in Mr Beattie’s article to the root cause of this problem, Brexit. Brexit means borders! Where did unionists think the border would go, given that the Belfast Friday Agreement meant it couldn’t go on the island of Ireland?
Did they think, as some Brexiteers did, that the EU would have to impose a border of their own and that the unionists would be able to disown responsibility? If so, how naive.
Like any compromise, the protocol has flaws, and I understand the sense of betrayal felt by unionists but, I repeat, the ultimate cause of this is Brexit and London’s eagerness to “get it done”.
The protocol is no more likely to “go away” than Brexit is.
There is, obviously, scope to mitigate its many flaws – with goodwill and by agreement – and it offers opportunities to citizens and businesses in Northern Ireland that are not available to their counterparts on the UK mainland. – Yours, etc,